Paralympic medallist Ian Marsden cut the ribbon to officially open the new state of the art football pitch at Stafford Town FC.
The Rio bronze medal winning paracanoeist was the guest of honour at the unveiling of the 3G pitch as part of the £700,000 project.
Stafford Town FC currently boast around 30 teams – ranging from under 7s to men and ladies first teams, as well as a girls and disability sections. And the new scheme is expected to help the club grow in numbers over the next few years.
The project also included upgrades to the car park with improved access to and from the ground.
The improvements were a joint venture between the club and Stafford Borough Council and was made possible thanks to a £536,944 grant from the Premier League and The FA Facilities Fund, which is delivered by the Football Foundation – and a further £62,673 grant from the Premier League, through the Football Stadia Improvement Fund (FSIF), the largest funders of non-league football in the country.
As part of the opening ceremony matches were played on the pitch featuring junior teams, the girls section, and Stafford Town Dragons.
Club Chairman, Gordon Evans, said:
“We have worked closely with Stafford Borough Council to enable us to secure the funding to deliver this first class pitch which we hope will benefit organisations across the community as well as Stafford Town teams.
“The money from the Premier League and The FA Facilities Fund was vital in being able to make this happen and our new facility will help grow the game and benefit so many players at the grassroots level of the sport.”
“We were very honoured to have Ian come along and help us celebrate our special day. His determination and attitude to never give up – despite whatever challenges life threw at him – are characteristics we want to instil in all the young people who come to this club.”
Ian won bronze in the Paralympics K1 200m paracanoe – and was close to taking gold after being involved in a three-way photo-finish.
“It’s great to be back in Stafford, where my sporting career started, following my success at the Rio Paralympics and to be given the opportunity to open these new facilities that will help inspire the next generation.
“I’m pleased to have officially opened Evans Park’s new 3G pitch in an area that is very important to me. The facilities are really impressive. They ensure our youngsters have the platform to express themselves, enjoy their sport and make the most of their potential.
“Having had such a brilliant experience competing and medalling in the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, I really do understand the huge value of these local grassroots facilities that help bring through the next generation of elite sport stars. I’d like to thank all those involved in the project – Stafford Borough Council, Stafford Town FC and importantly, the Premier League and The FA Facilities Fund for their great financial support towards a project that will support the local Stafford community for years to come!”